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Hacks airlines don’t want you to know

Sneaky ways to save a bundle with air travel
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Robin Esrock, September 27, 2013 11:34:58 AM

Ever wonder why airline prices fluctuate so much? How the guy in the seat next to you paid less for his ticket, had to deal with fewer connections, or got bumped to business class? There are some loopholes when it comes to booking cheap tickets, some of which can even get you blacklisted. Here are a few to consider for your next trip.

Fly into major gateways
It’s usually more affordable to fly to a major gateway, and then book a cheaper short haul flight once you arrive. For example, it costs less to book round trip from Toronto to London and then take a flight from London to Copenhagen, as compared to booking with an airline alliance from Toronto to Copenhagen.

Hub and spoke trick
This practice can get you blacklisted, although there’s not much airlines can do about it. First you must ensure you’ve booked a one-way ticket, and have no checked baggage. Next, search for tickets to less busy, cheaper destinations that have connections in the city you actually want to travel to. For example, a flight from Philadelphia to Atlanta might cost $400, but a flight from Philadelphia to Savannah routing through Atlanta costs $200. Simply leave the airport, and don’t get on the connecting flight. Be warned though, if airlines pick up this as a pattern, they can suspend mileage or cancel future itineraries.

Same day flight changes
It’s a gamble that might not pay off, especially if you’re not super flexible with your travel plans. Book a cheap flight during the off-peak hours. Then cancel the flight on the same day, and see you if you can get on another plane at a more desirable hour. The flight-change fee is usually way less than the difference in ticket price. Of course, there’s no guarantee you will be able to get on another flight, and scammers might just end up shooting a hole in their foot.

No surprise that connections are cheaper than non-stop flights. If money is a concern, it’s worth looking at connections, especially ones that will put you on discounted flights later during unpopular hours.

Gather your miles
Connections come with another bonus – extra points. Multiple leg flights can deliver 20-30% more frequent flyer miles, which might be worth the inconvenience if it helps you get elite status.

Next time the flight is overbooked, consider volunteering to get bumped. By law, the FAA insists on a certain amount of compensation for involuntary bumps. By volunteering, you can score free meals, hotels, upgrades and cash. Of course, you’ve got to be flexible with your time, and good with your negotiation.

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Robin Esrock

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